Displaced East Ukrainian University Gets a Second Life

Thanks to the support of the EU, the largest university in Donbas, Volodymyr Dahl National University, will once again open its doors to students this September.

When, in 2014, militants took over the buildings of Dahl University in Luhansk, students and professors were forced to make the difficult decision to leave their hometown and start from scratch somewhere new. On September 29, 2014, the University moved to Severodonetsk (which is now the administrative centre of Luhansk oblast) and began strictly offering distance learning. This year University opens with full-time tuition for 3000 students and 1500 professors.

“We settled in at our Severodonetsk location. We had classrooms, but most of them required significant renovation,” says Ruslan Galgash, director of the Institute of Economics and Management.

To get back to its normal activities and try to even start growing again, the University began applying for grants from the EU and other international organisations. Galgash emphasises that every employee of the University understands the importance of grants to their work. “It’s possible to get support for any initiative if you have the will,” he says.

Among others, the University has secured a grant within the framework of the EU’s “Support to regional development policy in Ukraine” programme, which began in April 2015. In total, the EU provided €578,000 for the repair and purchase of equipment. This money has been allocated to renovate the University’s facilities, and buy office furniture and computers.

About 70% of the students and professors that resided on the University’s former campus now live at the new Severodonetsk location and a major challenge for the University has been providing accommodation for these people. The University renovated two dormitories, bought bunk beds, replaced windows, and purchased gas stoves. The new housing can accommodate about 500 people.

The University also used the grant money to equip the e-learning centre with three servers and computer equipment. Now up to 15,000 students are be able to study remotely at the institution. The teachers and administrators are not going to stop there. “We are planning to create a student media centre, communication media hub, a platform for conflict mediation, and an ecology lab,” Galgash adds.

While new lecture halls and classrooms await the arrival of students, the university admission process is plagued by delays. A common problem among all displaced universities is that applicants struggle to provide independent external evaluation certificates. Despite this, future students are passing the required two exams. So far, 48 citizens of the occupied territories and from the “grey zone” have become students at Dahl University.

“People from the occupied  territories are starting to wise up. We have heard about students who studied for a year or two in that region before transferring to our university. That’s because our system has a more global orientation as opposed to the more isolated Russian education system,” says the secretary of admissions department Evgen Maznev.

Maznev says that from the very first days admissions opened, students lined up for a chance to enroll. The university is more popular this year than it was last year, receiving more than twice the number of applications. The fields in greatest demand among applicants are Law, Philology, and Economics. “Technical subjects and Computer Science are also starting to regain their former popularity,” Maznev adds.